Sunday 24 July 2016

David Blunkett's tunnel vision comments about the middle classes

When it became clear that Jeremy Corbyn wasn't just going to be bullied into resignation the coup-plotters had to come up with some kind of plan to rig the Labour leadership election against him. Their first move was to exclude over 130,000 legitimate members of the party from voting by retroactively setting an arbitrary six month cut off (a move that infuriated the people who had been excluded and anyone who cares about party democracy too). Their next move was even worse. They decided to allow a backdoor to allow the well-to-do to sign up to vote for a £25 surcharge.

The aim was clearly to exclude as many Corbyn supporters as possible by pricing them out of participation. The ploy failed spectacularly when an unprecedented 183,000 people in just two days (most of the Corbyn supporters) paid the £25 levy, with many of them sacrificing essentials in order to cough up the Labour Party surcharge on democratic participation.

Labour coup-supporters have never really tried to understand the massive surge of people joining the Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. Instead of seeing 300,000+ new party members as potential footsoldiers in a paradigm shifting grassroots Labour Party campaign, a lot of New Labour types are terrified of them and prefer to use insults and slurs to dismiss them. We've all seen examples of coup-supporters using the word "Corbynite" as an insult and dismissing the 300,000+ new party members as "infiltrators", "dogs", "Trots", "entryists", "thugs", "quasi-Marxists"...

One of the common themes amongst coup-supporters is the idea that Corbyn supporters are "middle class" and so comfortably well off that they are out of touch with reality.

The former New Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett is the latest coup-supporter to try this hopelessly divisive line of attack. He described Corbyn supporters as being a bunch of "middle class" people who have "captured" the Labour Party and are "protected from the consequences of their actions" and "whose whole life and raison d’ĂȘtre is opposition".

It's hard to see how Blunkett could have been any more smug and insulting if he'd tried.

Firstly, the most obvious point is that sticking a £25 surcharge on democratic participation is a clear demonstration that the Labour Party establishment don't want the working poor and the vulnerable to have a political voice. They rigged the election in favour of the well-to-do who can find a spare £25 just to cast a single vote, and now they have the absolute cheek to whinge about middle class people getting involved in the Labour Party!

The next obvious criticism is that the "middle class" are nowhere near as insulated from the consequences of their actions as smug New Labour MPs who have been parachuted into safe Labour-voting constituencies and essentially have jobs for life no matter how much they serve the interests of capital over the interests of the people who elected them. Even if they do somehow lose their seat in the House of Commons they can look forward to retirement in the £300 per day (tax-free) unelected House of Lords, or cushy consultancies at PR firms or corporations hoping to cash in on their political connections. The people who are really behaving like they have no regard for the consequences of their actions are the Labour Party coup-plotter MPs and their tunnel-vision suffering supporters within the Labour Party.

Another point is that using "middle class" as if it's a pejorative term is absolutely appalling. One of the core propaganda tactics utilised by coup-plotters and their cheerleaders in the mainstream press is that Jeremy Corbyn doesn't have what it tales to win over Tory voters*, but how on earth are Labour going to do that if party grandees go around dismissing the middle class as cluelessly out-of-touch people who should keep their noses out of the Labour Party?

Yet another point is that not all middle class people are comfortably well off because lots of middle class demographics have suffered the consequences of six years of wage repression and socially and economically ruinous Tory ideological austerity. Even if some middle class people are still doing quite well despite six years of Tory austerity and wage repression, it's highly likely they have kids or family relatives in the younger generations who have been loaded up with obscene tuition fee debts just for having a bit of aspiration, who have been priced out of the housing market, who have been denied social security based solely upon their age, or have been exploited on Zero Hours Contracts or as a free source of Labour under Tory "Workfare" forced unpaid labour schemes.

The idea that the 300,000+ new Labour members are just a bunch of interfering middle-class do-gooders is insulting to pretty much everyone. It's an insult to our intelligence to say that people who are furious about policies that were either introduced by New Labour (university tuition aspiration taxes, speculation induced house price inflation, Zero Hours Contracts, Workfare forced-labour schemes) or catastrophically unopposed by the Miliband brand of New Labour (ruinous Tory austerity, cuts to in-work benefits) are just being petulantly middle class and should just get over themselves and vote for the reincarnation of New Labour rather than a guy who has a consistent track record of actually opposing this appalling stuff.

Blunketts comments, like those of so many coup supporters before him, just go to prove that it's not Corbyn supporters (middle class or otherwise) who are out of touch with reality, it's New Labour politicians who are so insulated within the Westminster bubble of wealth and privilege that they're incapable of understanding that the unprecedented groundswell of support for Jeremy Corbyn (despite a vicious mainstream media propaganda war against him) is that people are utterly sick of the pampered Westminster establishment club, of which they are a part. 

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* Tory voters constituted 24% of the electorate in 2015. Their all time low was 19% at the 2001 General Election. This suggests that only 5% worth of Tory voters would ever swing to Labour under any circumstance. Conversely the Lib-Dems jettisoned two thirds of their supporters when they chose to enable the Tories back into power (some 9% of the total electorate) and 35% of the electorate didn't even bother to vote. It's clearly a very confused strategy to chase away your own voters by trying to appeal to Tory voters when 44% of the electorate are disillusioned with the Lib-Dems or politics in general and looking for an alternative worth voting for.

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